Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Epic Conclusion: Jack in the Box Part 3.

I’ve let myself marinate for five days without a salad, and alas, I’m too lazy to cook and the chub seems to be returning as a result.
Plus I need some cheap laughs, so I figure I’ll visit the circus at Jack in the Box one last time.

I’m hoping to see Lazy Eye and Samantha when I walk in, but none of the regulars are working tonight. Instead it’s empty behind the counter.
The dining room is quiet, no music. Only hidden sounds of food being made.

I hear the door open behind me, and the clang of a skateboard.

Holding it is a very slender teenage boy. He’s got a tiny Element t-shirt on, with skinny jeans barely clinging onto his little waist. His skater hat is also strategically askew in its placement on his head. The whole ensemble is a perfectly planned attempt at seeming careless.

A new face approaches from behind the counter- ‘Manny’ his nametag states.

“HeycanIhelpyou,” Manny tells the monitor screen.

I take a moment to drink in Manny. Manny is a mouth breather. His eyes are far away. At best, his mind is asleep while his body moves as a robot in routine.

I could order something Manny has heard of before, but instead I use the secret phrase that unlocks Entertainment Mode.

“Hi, I’d like a grilled chicken salad, please.”

“Grilled chicken sandwich you wanna combo.”

“Oh no fries with my salad, thank you.”

“We don’t make salads with fries.”

“I know.”

Manny stares. The skater kid stares. So I stare too.
Then I try again.

“I’d like a grilled chicken salad. The salad kind of salad, please.”

“Kay grilled er crispy.”

“Grilled for here.”

“Here er to go.”

“For here.”

I have the $6.20 ready for him so he doesn’t say the amount due.
Manny rings up my order, walks behind the metal wall, and reappears with a salad.

“Dang you guys are fast.”

Manny mouth-breathes, and puts a Southwest Crispy Chicken salad on the counter.

“Hey that was pretty close!” I say, happy.

Manny picks the salad back up and stares through it, then puts it under the counter, and goes back behind the metal wall again.

“Fuckin sucks. Hate that shit bro,” Skater offers.

“Oh it’s okay, I mean it only takes two se-“

“Here you go,” Manny cuts us both off with a new salad.

“Whoa! See? That was so fast!” I say to Skater, pointing at the new salad.

Skater stares. Manny mouth-breathes.

“Well done,” I tell them both with a firm nod.

I eat my salad, it’s just as I ordered it. Skater gets his burger and leaves.
I’m sitting at the first table by the entrance, halfway through my meal, when the door opens again.

The smell of very, very fresh marijuana wafts in with two college freshman boys.
They have huge smiles on their faces, one’s smaller, wearing a tank top and a sunburn. The other has curly hair and rosy cheeks.

“Hey guys!” I wave.

Tank Top hears my voice, checks the ceiling first, then the floor.

“I’m over here!” I tell him, three feet away.

“Oh hey man! What’s up? I’ve NEVER seen you before!”

“Whoa me neither!” Curly exclaims.

“I know, huh? The odds are like, one in seven billion that you’d ever meet me! It’s like you just won the lottery a hundred times,” I congratulate them.

Tank Top’s eyes widen, “Dude did you hear that,” he smacks Curly’s arm, “We just won the lottery!”
They both laugh too hard.

“Let’s buy whatever we want then!”

Now they're both trying to make sense of the menu behind Manny, who’s still mouth-breathing.

“Hey you know what you guys should get?” I ask from my table.

“What?” they both respond in unison, turning towards me.


Manny’s mouth closes.

With paranoid eyes, the two stoners whisper to each other too loudly.

“I didn’t know they make salads here.”
“Me either.”
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”
“Whoa when did we get here?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”
“I say we try a salad. It could be cool, man.”
“Yeah plus we won the lottery. We should get a salad huh.”
“Yeah let’s get one. Well one for you and one for me.”
“Ok cool.”

Manny’s gaze and mine battle a silent war in the background.

“Whoa wait. This is Taco Bell right?”
“Who’s that guy?”
“I think he works here.”
“Can he make salads? Does he know they make salads here?”
“I don’t know man. I don’t know.”

I stand up and join them.

“These gentlemen will have a grilled chicken salad a piece. On me.”

I hear giggles of relief from the boys.

Manny sighs, then robots the order into existence, and gives them both a salad within seconds.

“Whoa, thank you man!” Curly can't believe it.
Tank Top gives me a bro handshake.

“No problem, happy to help,” I tell them, laughing at their permanent grins.

Ah, youth.

I return to my seat and finish my salad, listening to the boys discuss what they’re going to buy with their lottery money.

Clearing my tray in the trashcan, I wave to them on my way out the door. They both grin back, overly satisfied with the food filling their cheeks.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jack in the Box, Part 2. Oh, there's more to this!

I’ve never written a sequel before, but this Jack in the Box is a rabbit hole that goes so deep. And the situation so impossibly odd, I had to write it down the moment I got home. If anything, to make sure it really happened.

Refresh yourself with the previous post if you haven’t already.

Wow, all right. Here we go.
I remembered the salads being pretty decent, and it’s a much more normal time of night, around 9:30pm. So I figure at the very least, I won’t get the same ambiguously gendered person messing up my order. But just in case, this time I opt to walk inside. I figure the possibility for error is much smaller this way.

Letting myself inside Jack in the Box, the room is quiet. I’m the only one here again, with Rick Astley (ha, I know!) playing just audibly overhead.

Eventually I’m noticed by a small Hispanic man. He’s thin, with a mustache, and his front teeth seem to be a home repair job.
I breathe a sigh of relief. At least I know he’s a man.

“Hi. Hi. Can, can I help… yoosir.”

“Yes I’d like a grilled chicken salad.”

He nods, then stares at his computer. He’s lost, finger dangling over the monitor.

“Ensalada… ehh…ensalada…”
His brow ruffles.

“Oh and the nuclear launch codes.”

He nods again, and keeps staring at his computer.

“No, no Pedro. Don’t worry I’ll get this,” I hear a feminine and yet masculine voice say.

It appears from the left. That same it from before. It’s here. It’s working again. And it’s just me and it.


Pedro thanks his lucky stars, bows to it and me, smiles and returns to making food in the back.

“Sup,” it says.
Same spiked and buzzed hair. Same everything from before.

“Hey… uh. I’d like a grilled chicken salad please.”

“Crispy or grilled.”

“Grilled, for here.”

“For here or to go.”

“For here.”

“Okay six twenny,” it says, glancing toward the drive thru window.

My hand goes to reach for my wallet, but I stop it. I have to know. I have to know now.

“Listen. Hey, I’m sorry. I just. I just really need to know if you’re a guy or a girl.”


“Actually. What’s your name?”


Crap. I look at its shirt, it just says ‘Sam’.

“Oh okay cool. So uh. Samuel… Samantha…?”


We stare at each other in silence. A duel, a standoff. If we were outside, surely a tumbleweed would have blown by.

“… It can’t be just Sam.”

It removes its headpiece, gives a nod to an unseen coworker in the back, and turns back to me.

“Why not? Dude, what does it matter if I’m a boy or a girl? What are you, a bigot?”

“Yes, and I need to put people into categories. Boy, girl, asian, rapist, war monger and so on.”

Sam scoffs at me, as I see a larger man approach from the side. He’s got a different colored shirt on; clearly he’s more powerful around here.

“Camera’s off,” he tells Sam, “We got a problem?”

Sam thumbs to me, “It’s that fuckin salad guy I was telling you about. He’s here and he’s being an asshole to me again.”

The supervisor nods with a stern grimace, then turns so he’s facing me.

“Oh! Wow…” escapes my mouth. I wasn’t expecting what I saw.

“Oh, so now you’re making fun of me too huh? Fuck’s your problem man? First you order salads, who the hell orders a salad here. Then you get off calling her names and laughing at me too, huh?”

I should have just apologized and left right there, but I didn’t. Instead, for some reason, that filter between my brain and my mouth completely vanished and this popped out:

“Well most the time when I see a lazy eye you know I gotta play that game where it’s like ‘okay pick an eye’ and I talk to that eye. But with you it’s like, shit man, one eye’s checking the back door and the other one is sizing me up. I mean I’ve seen my share of lazy eyes, but that one hasn’t worked a day in its life. That is the laziest lazy eye… I’ve ever seen. Lemme tell ya.”

That wasn’t the right thing to say.

His lip quivers, then he bites it. He’s angry now.

I make sure there’s enough distance to where he couldn’t lean forward and grab me over the counter.

“F…fffuck. You. Bro,” his lips overly enunciate each word. His good eye is wide open with rage.

“Okay I’ll make a deal with you two. Forget the salad. Forget salads for a while. Just tell me. What is that,” I point to Sam, “Is that a boy, or a girl.”

“Why does it even-” his hands turn to fists, but then he stops, “Sam’s a…a… Sam is… hmm.”

Now he’s confused. I’ve confused him. We’re both confused now, looking at Sam together.

“Sam es my seester!” Pedro yells from the back.

Me and the supervisor burst out laughing, as Pedro’s silly head pops out from behind the fryer with a huge smile.
Sam isn’t happy, which makes it even funnier.

“I knew it! Well I kinda did,” I holler, making the supervisor double over the counter. He’s laughing so hard, for a good minute or more.

“Oh man. Ohhh man,” supervisor wipes his eyes. “Dude I’ve wondered that for so long. So long, dude. You have no idea.”

“I hate all three of you!” Samantha says, crossing her arms and heading to the bathroom.

Me and supervisor laugh some more. Then finally, now apparently friends, supervisor puts his hand on the computer and asks me,

“All right. Whew. Okay. So what did you want?”

“A grilled chicken salad.”

“Crispy or grilled?”

“Grilled, to go.”

“Okay, for here or to go?”

“To go.”

“Okay six twenty.”

Monday, April 16, 2012

Big Mistake at Jack in the Box.

I’ve been sent on a mission for two salads, to a nearby Jack in the Box at 1:30am.
Certainly this should be easy.
Pulling in, there are only two employee cars in the lot, and none in the drive thru.

I move up to the order screen and wait a moment.

A small voice greets me “Hey man, whatchoo need.”

A bit colloquial, but it’s late, I’ll let it slide.

Then I make a huge request, too detailed, a big mistake.
“Good evening. I’d like a Club salad with crispy chicken, and a Southwest salad with grilled chicken.”

There’s a pause.

“Kay two grilled clubs. First window.”

“Oh I’m sorry, no it was one Club salad and one Southwest salad.”

“Crispy Southwest with a Club, kay. Twelve twenny, first window.”

“Are you… are you messing with me?”

“Drink with that?”

“No thanks.”

“Kay, window please.”

I don’t move. Wondering if this guy is trolling me, or stoned, or if this is what happens when you order salads from Jack in the Box.
They aren’t busy. If they were, I’d be okay with inaccuracy. But it’s just me.

“All right, let’s just start over, okay?”

No response.

“I want two different salads. The first salad, write this down, is a Club salad. Like all salads from here, it comes with the option of grilled or crispy chicken. This Club salad, check this out, will come with crispy chicken.”

“...One Club salad, okay first window.”

“Nope, there’s more to this. Okay stretch first. Here it comes. There’s also going to be a Southwest salad. This salad, holy shit, will have grilled chicken on it.”

There’s a full minute of silence. I wonder if the guy quit. I’m about to leave when
“Okay I think I got it.”

“All right, man. Well I’m coming up to your window.”


I pull up. There’s no one in there. So I wait.
Finally, an ambiguously gendered Hispanic person appears.

It’s got spiked hair on top, shaved on the bottom. Heavy set, there could be boobs, but I’m not certain. They could be man boobs. Or gloriously restrained female ones. This person has a soft face, like a girl’s, but moves like a man. It’s got one faux diamond earring on the left ear.

“Sup,” it says to me. The voice is equally ambiguous.


“Okay so what did you want?”

My right hand grabs a cigarette. I light it, take a long drag and stare back at him/her.

“A Club salad with crispy chicken. And a Southwest salad with… grilled chicken.”

“Oh, you sure?”

“Yeah I’m sure.”

“Aight one sec,” it tells me, then vanishes.

It left the window open, and I could hear what sounded like pots and pans being dropped. A fumbling hurry, with two voices arguing in Spanish.
He/she reappears with a bag.

“Aight. Twelve twenny.”

I hand my card over, wondering what’s in the bag. I do enjoy surprises.

She hands my card back with a forced smile. I think it’s a girl. Well, pretty sure it’s a girl.

Returning home, I’m excited to see what I got.
I got two salads that were opened and the chicken switched. The Club had grilled, and the Southwest had crispy. CLOSE ENOUGH!

And they were actually pretty tasty. :)